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Chapter 5 Kearns: Reading guide

Make sure you know what the following concepts mean and how to use them appropriately:

  • definite description
  • referential opacity, opaque vs. transparent contexts
  • propositional attitude verb
  • rigid designator (discussion of example (27))
  • narrow and wide scope of a definite description
  • de dicto and de re beliefs
Make sure you understand:
  • why we analyze the as a generalized quantifier; 
  • that the use of the is subject to existential commitment and the uniqueness requirement, and how the analysis of the as a generalized quantifier codes both aspects; 
  • how the uniqueness requirement is relative to a context:
    • for the sentence the student is sleeping to be felicitous, there must be only one student in the context of utterance, even if the NP the student could be applied to a large number of individuals;
  • that the is a strong determiner, and how to determine this (use of the there BE test);
  • that the interaction between the and other expressions such as modals or propositional attitude verbs gives rise to scopal ambiguities;
  • Leibniz's Law and the Principle of Substitutivity;
  • the effect of scope and de re / de dicto readings (see especially summary around examples (40-42));
  • why de re readings correspond to wide scope, de dicto readings narrow scope of the definite description. 
Make sure you know how to:
  • formalize sentences with definite descriptions and modal expressions such that the semantic ambiguity is apparent, and how to paraphrase each of the resulting readings (examples (29), (30));
  • formalize de dicto and de re readings of a sentence (example (38)).
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